National parks in England and Wales should not be protected as “wildernesses”

Nick Boles, the UK government planning minister has spoken in a debate in parliament on planning rules and suggested we should not be protected national parks as “wildernesses”. If only they were! National parks in England and Wales (as well as those in Scotland) are classified as Category V under IUCN’s  classification of protected areas, meaning they are “protected landscapes/seascapes” and not Category II “national parks” which applies more to the national parks in North America such as Yosemite to which Nick Boles refers in his speech. Just to clarify for Mr Boles, a UK national park classified under the IUCN system is “A protected area where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant, ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values” not “large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible, spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational, and visitor opportunities” (see http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/gpap_home/gpap_quality/gpap_pacategories/ for more detail). Obviously there are pockets of wilder landscapes that can be found within the UK’s national parks, but by and large one would hardly call them wilderness and less still worry that planning laws are protecting them as such. WRi is working hard with colleagues in UK and Europe to progress the notion that our wilder landscapes are valuable and need protection, whether from housing (an unlikely threat in such areas) or poor land management (e.g. over grazing and over zealous predatory control), commercial forestry and renewable energy (more likely).

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